Kilkenny Castle: when to visit, what to see, things to know

The medieval city of Kilkenny is home to one of the most magnificent castles in Ireland. Here is everything you need to know about Kilkenny Castle. 

The beautiful Kilkenny Castle is nestled in the heart of Kilkenny City and overlooks the spectacular River Nore. As one of the earliest Norman stone castles to be built in Ireland, this ancient castle has a wealth of history to be discovered.

Unsurprisingly, it has been described as “one of the most fairytale-esque castles of the world”. This magnificent castle is set on a gorgeous 50 acres of land, which adds to the immense grandeur and beauty that Kilkenny Castle has to offer. 

Overview – history and heritage

The history of this castle is fascinating.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

The castle was built after the Norman conquest of Ireland and was completed in 1210. In the years since then, Kilkenny castle has undergone multiple extensions and rebuilds while also having various uses over these 800 years.  

Kilkenny Castle was the principal residence of the Butlers. They were amongst the most high-ranking people of Ormond, the ancient region of East Munster, for almost 600 years.

It is thanks to the powerful Butler family that Kilkenny City has become the vibrant city that it is today. 

In 1969 Kilkenny Castle was taken over by the Irish State so the castle wouldn’t fall into disrepair. The castle was then restored to its former glory before being opened to the public in 1976.

Since then, visitors have been able to explore the grounds and interior of much of Kilkenny Castle, which attracts almost 800,000 visitors every year.

When to visit – open all year round

When to visit Kilkenny Castle.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Fortunately, Kilkenny Castle is open every day apart from the 24, 25, and 26 of December.

It is important to note that the summer months are the busiest time for visitors to the castle. However, there is so much to see and explore on the castle grounds that you generally will not be affected by a large number of visitors. 

What to see – delve into Ireland’s history

Kilkenny Castle has some impressive staircases.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

The library in Kilkenny Castle is home to a massive collection of books that were once part of the Butler collection.

The interior of the library has been recreated to replicate the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th-century. The original carpet and wallpaper were recreated so that the room could be returned to its former glory.

There are various sets of stairs throughout the castle that lead to beautifully restored wings and rooms.

One of the most beautiful of which is the Moorish Staircase that has lots of intrinsic details carved into it, such as details of small animals and naturalistic foliage.

Another favourite staircase of ours is the grand staircase, which makes you feel like royalty as you walk up and down it!

The Long Room is amazing.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

For those with an interest in architecture, head to the tapestry room. Here you can see how thick the walls of the castle are, which in some parts of the castle walls are more than 6ft thick.

The 17th-century tapestries that hang here tell the story of Decius Mus, and they are beautifully handcrafted.

Undoubtedly, the most spectacular of all rooms in Kilkenny Castle is the Long Gallery.

As the Ormond family were patrons of the arts, they had one of the largest and finest collections of art in Ireland.

The Long Gallery houses some of this magnificent collection along with some rotating exhibitions. Make sure you look up as there is an incredible hand-painted roof that is decorated with ladies and naturalistic scenes. 

Things to know – useful information

This medieval castle is a must visit.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

You can explore the castle as part of a guided or self-guided tour. The guided tours allow you to ask any questions that you may have. Although guided tours are more expensive, they are totally worth it if you are interested in history. 

The grounds are home to a rose garden, a man-made lake, and extensive rolling parkland with mature trees. There is also a playground for children to play in and a small tearoom to get a small bite to eat.

We suggest giving yourself an hour to explore the interior of the castle. However, more time would be needed to explore the extensive castle grounds.

Head for a picnic at Kilkenny Castle.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

If you are heading here on a sunny day, we suggest bringing a picnic to have in front of the castle. It is a genuinely magical picnic experience! 

This historic castle makes up part of Ireland’s Medieval Mile, a discovery trail through Kilkenny City. So be sure to continue your adventures through Kilkenny by following this historic trail!

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